Category Archives: Cinema

Duelling Reviews: The Critical Divide on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Reviewers across the world will be sinking their teeth into Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix over the next few days, but don’t let the early Rotten Tomatoes score [EDIT: It was at about 90% when this was written, and has fallen below 70% as of Monday Evening] fool you: this film will likely end up dividing critics more than any other in the series. Why? Well, the reviews are going to fall into two camps:

Those who embrace the film’s anti-authoritarian, traditional film plot, and those who wanted to see more whimsical Quidditch matches and other such magic.

On the side of the more traditional film plot, we’ve got a few reviewers who are actually labeling the film the best yet:

Time’s Richard Corliss:

Another mystery–whether a new director (David Yates) and scriptwriter (Michael Goldenberg) can build on the intelligent urgency of the past two Potter films–is cleared up in the first few minutes as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) performs some impromptu magic to save an ugly Muggle. The confrontation is swift, vivid, scary and, to the audience, assuring: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be a good one. Perhaps the best in the series, it turns out. The tone and palette are darker, the characters more desperate and more determined. Playtime is over; childhood is a distant memory or just a dream. For Harry and his friends, it’s time to grow up and fight Voldemort or surrender to him.

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Where Can You Watch Pixar’s Lifted? Only in Theatres…and on iTunes!

[EDIT: As Leland has pointed out, Lifted can now be purchased in the iTunes store for those interested in viewing it again and again for the low, low price of $2. But he’s also correct to point out that seeing it in theatres is a whole different experience. Thanks for the heads up, Leland!]

Over the past few days after the release of Ratatouille, people have been stumbling across Cultural Learnings’ review of the short film, Lifted, that appears before the new Disney-Pixar release in theatres. It seems, based on the amount of people searching for a way to see the short film, that people want to watch it again. Well, I’ve got some bad news for you: Disney and Pixar are not going to be letting you do that online any time soon.

Why? Well, because they want you to go see ‘Ratatouille’ again, of course! If it was available online, that’s one less reason for people to bother heading to theatres to see their new animated film, so of course they’re going to be militant about keeping the short under wraps. They even deleted a short clip of the short from the AWN Oscars Preview that had been up in February when the short was nominated for an Oscar.

So, if you want to see it again soon, I suggest heading to your local theatre to check out Ratatouille for a 2nd time. However, if you’re patient, I think that you’ll get a chance to download the short film from iTunes within the next week or so. Last year’s One Man Band, screening in front of Cars, was released to the service about a week after that film’s release. So, perhaps the end of the week will bring you the fix you’re looking for.

Until then, all we can do is wait and hope that an abuctor-in-training doesn’t get us killed in our sleep before we get a chance to watch this hilarious little film again.


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Ratatouille ‘Box Office Watch’

[Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille hits theatres this weekend. Will it win the Box Office crown? And, if so, will its success silent critics who question its box office potential? Cultural Learnings has all the details, and will be updating throughout the weekend]

Sunday Update:

Below most box office projections and signalling the studio’s worst launch since A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille has won the Weekend Box Office with $46 Million worth of receipts.

This will be labeled a disappointment, and although things will be blown out of proportion it is still lower than what anyone would have liked. I don’t know if it was subject matter or what it was, but it is very clear that the film just didn’t generate the same amount of buzz as Pixar’s past summer releases (Cars, Finding Nemo).

All eyes now turn to how Transformers will perform starting on Monday Evening, and how much Ratatouille will hold on through this week’s holiday.

Other Notes:

– The film’s very small increase from Friday to Saturday shows that this film is skewing more adult than any of Pixar’s past films. The small 2% increase is more indicative of an adult-skewing horror film than a child-friendly animated one. This does not bode well for the film as it faces tough young male and nostalgia-based competition with Transformers.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Disney-Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’

I saw ‘Ratatouille’ two weeks ago in a Special Sneak Preview, and I loved the film. And, well, I think other people should see it too. This is not a perfect film: its problems are small, but they are in fact there and this cannot be ignored. However, they are far outweighed by those qualities that raise this film experience to a different level than last year’s Cars. These qualities are those that make Ratatouille stand out for kids, adults, and all moviegoers. They might not stand out for every single critic, or for every single person who goes to see it: but I believe that they make this a film worth watching.

Over the past two weeks I have covered the first nine of these reasons, and with this feature I present the 10th and final one. For those who are not yet convinced as to whether this film is worth the time of you or your family, I can only say that the theatre in which I saw this film ran the gamut from toddlers to seniors. This is a film for everyone, and it’s a film you should see for the following ten reasons.

10. The Story

What makes Ratatouille so special is that its story covers so many bases without feeling overstuffed: Remy’s storyline deals with identity and finding one’s passion, Linguini has to learn to grow a backbone, and the commercialization of good food even gets its nose into the picture. While the themes and settings of the story are perhaps Pixar’s most unique yet, the heart at their centre is classic Pixar.

9. The Total Package (Wall-E and Lifted)

Now, this was technically just Wall-E in my initial piece, but I had to make a change to fit something in below. What the Wall-E teaser trailer and short film ‘Lifted’ bring to Ratatouille is a sense of both the future of Pixar and the value that Pixar brings to their films. For adults, seeing that Wall-E trailer gives you a glimpse at the conceptually unique film Pixar has coming next year. And, for kids and adults, Lifted is a comic gem that will get you ready for the main course.

8. The Music

I said a lot of positive things about Michael Giacchino’s work on this film, and reviewers are coming in with the same feelings. From the Chicago Tribune:

To “Ratatouille” Giacchino contributes the most delightful musical score of the year. His delicate, nimble flute theme for Remy (like Jean-Pierre Rampal on uppers) captures the hectic pace of a rat’s life, and there’s a genuinely rhapsodic swell of feeling in the way the orchestral music augments the rooftop view from Linguini’s tiny apartment, as seen through the eyes of Remy.

7. The Supporting Voice Cast

From unknowns to legendary film stars, what Ratatouille perhaps does best is maintain a sense of character within its, well, characters. These are not celebrities voicing people and rats, but instead people who are becoming these characters and giving them depth and interesting developments. Peter O’Toole is especially fantastic.

6. Paris

This film is as much of a love letter to Paris as it is to food itself. With breathtaking beauty, Pixar has created a stunning vista that stretches for miles which portrays Paris as a beautiful city; however, they go further. The sidestreets and alleyways are full of life, imagination, colour, and when Remy travels through this city there is a sense of discovery and wonder unseen in even previous Pixar films.

5. The Comedy

Some critics are claiming that this film isn’t funny, and I think they need to get in touch with people who know what comedy is. Comedy doesn’t have to be puns, or fart jokes, or even verbal. The comedy within Ratatouille is sly for adults, physical for the kids, and fast-paced even when the dialogue is not. While the film is not a laugh riot, with great precision it milks laughs out at key points to serve its story.

4. The Food

Buy snacks when you go to see Ratatouille, and make them as gourmet as possible. Your stomach will start rumbling watching this movie, and the preparation that went into this food is rather stunning. I’m pretty sure that Pixar’s animators will view cooking as easy compared to cooking it up on computers.

3. The Critical Moral

This is a change from my initial list, but I wish to change this for a reason: as more negative reviews (not unjustly) come in, my first fears have come true. The film has a moral message delivered by food critic Anton Ego that challenges the current state of criticism, and some reviewers are getting all uppity about it. I think they should watch the movie again and reconsider, but that moral is well-stated, brilliantly read by Peter O’Toole, and something to make you think after leaving the theatre. I won’t spoil it, per se, but I think it makes a strong coda for the film and is certainly a reason for adults to see this film.

2. Patton Oswalt / “Remy”

A lovable rat? It doesn’t seem possible, but Patton Oswalt gives Remy just enough rat-like qualities while creating an insanely likable lead character. You can’t possibly not root for Remy in this story, and Oswalt’s passion for all things food bleeds through his shiny blue fur to create an intriguing mix of rodent and chef extraordinaire.

And, without further adieu, the #1 Reason to see Ratatouille is…

1. Brad Bird

There is not enough space within ten reasons to address all of the amazing technical animation work, the wonderful layouts and backgrounds, the glorious sound effects and all of that other stuff. So, as we usually do, we like to attribute a film’s quality to its director, the person in charge of the project. Doing so for Ratatouille feels almost more natural: Brad Bird (The one on the left, for the unaware) is a fantastic director (“The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”) and this is a fantastic film. However, Brad Bird deserves simultaneously only partial credit for conceiving this film, and entire credit for getting it into the shape it is in now. And that struggle, without a doubt, makes the work of Brad Bird (All of it) the #1 reason to see ‘Ratatouille’.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #2 – Patton Oswalt/’Remy’

#2Patton Oswalt/”Remy”

I cannot say that I knew who Patton Oswalt was before he became the lead voice actor in Pixar’s Ratatouille. In fact, when people became somewhat excited when his voice emerged from Remy during the initial teaser trailer, I kind of just shrugged and didn’t bother investigating further. However, as hype behind the movie heated up I started to come to understand both who Patton Oswalt was and why Brad Bird had selected him for this part. And yet, despite knowing all of that, nothing could have prepared me for how awesome Patton Oswalt is in this film, and how he brings a sensibility to Remy that is charming and yet subversive. Combined with the work of the Pixar animators, Remy goes from being a blue rodent to a leading rat set to conquer the world in the hands of Patton Oswalt, and this character and its voice actor are Reason #2 You Should See Ratatouille.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #3 – ‘Lifted’ (Pixar’s New Animated Short Film)

#3 ‘Lifted’

Now, let me make one thing clear: I had technically planned on putting this earlier within the series, as it isn’t exactly my 3rd biggest reason to see this film, but then I forgot about it. However, as I’ve considered it, I think that it perhaps deserves a spot high on this list regardless of how fantastic Ratatouille itself is. Because, like most Pixar films, ‘Ratatouille’ ships to your local theatre with an animated short film attached to it. That animated short is the Oscar-nominated ‘Lifted’ from Gary Rydstrom, and it is Reason #3 you should see Ratatouille. Why? Because it is both stylistically and thematically connected with Brad Bird’s feature film, and prepares you well for the greatness to follow.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #4 – The Food

#4 – The Food

In Entertainment Weekly’s review of Ratatouille (Which, outside of the discussed problem, is still positive and has some valid arguments), Owen Gleiberman makes the following statement:

…the surfaces of Gusteau’s kitchen have such a vibrant photorealist sheen that you want to reach out and touch them, especially if you’re a foodie (and, really, who isn’t these days?).

Well, I’m certainly not a foodie. My eating habits are perhaps about as limited and strange as you could imagine, so that part of Ratatouille shouldn’t have appealed to me.

But it did; there is something about the food in this film that is just intoxicating, filling the screen with something you really do want to reach out and touch. And it’s Reason #4 you should see ‘Ratatouille’.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #5 – The Comedy

#5The Comedy

Pixar, ostensibly, makes comedies. While there are certain dramatic elements to all of their films, or in the case of the Incredibles an action/adventure setting, comedy is perhaps the most consistent elements in all of the studio’s work. It is therefore a compliment of sorts when I say that Ratatouille is perhaps the studio’s funniest film yet on so many different levels that I don’t even know where to begin. Once I get started, however, it will be the #5 Reason you should see ‘Ratatouille’.

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The Ten Reasons You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #6 – Paris


I’ve never been to Paris, France. It remains, in my mind, a city to which I hold no true personal experience, and as a result it might be hard to connect myself with it in any form. However, Pixar’s Ratatouille does something absolutely fascinating that no animated film has done to the same degree. With an exquisite sense of detail, the design, production and lighting teams at Pixar have created a Paris that captures the rolling fog, the glowing lights, the blazing sun and the gorgeous French atmosphere of the city of light. It is a recreation that makes you feel as if you’ve seen the sights, smelled the smells, experienced the experiences. And that recreation of Paris is Reason #6 you should see ‘Ratatouille’.

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Why Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) Got ‘Ratatouille’ Wrong

Central to Ratatouille’s plot, especially its final act, is a question about criticism. I won’t reveal the moral that this particular story resolves itself with, but I will state that it isn’t exactly kind to the modern critic. The story paints Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O’Toole, as a vicious man who revels in destroying reputations and believes that his word is the final word.

That image of the critic, then, is hard to keep out of your mind when reading reviews of the film that are flowing in.

RottenTomatoes – Ratatouille

Now, all of these reviews have been designated as “fresh” according to the site’s distinctions. However, one of these reviews needs to be considered more carefully, but I get a distinct rotten smell from it. Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman has written a review (His grade is a B) where I believe that he raises some good points: Linguini does kind of get dropped from the plot, and the romance is by far the film’s weakest development. But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something so downright offensive I don’t even know where to begin:

As a story, however, Ratatouille is fun without very much surprise. It’s like a fusty old Disney cartoon retrofitted with the Pixar sheen. The lack of celebrity voices is a major drawback, since Remy ends up with very little personality. Contrast him with, say, the bad-boy Owen Wilson speedster in Cars, and you’re seeing the difference between a hero with spice and a bland one who happens to know where the spice rack is.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. While Owen’s rating and his comments otherwise fall into the realm of your regular “good, but not great” review, I cannot let this statement go undiscussed. What Gleiberman is suggesting here, against all expectation, is a causal relationship between celebrity voice casts and quality animated films. And that is perhaps the most ludicrous thing I’ve read in a review in a very long time.

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